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Tips on building an International Business Network
by Startacus Admin
As I am typing this article on my MacBook Pro (American), which sits nicely on my IKEA oak table (Swedish), whilst drinking my (Colombian) double-roasted, dripped-to-perfection coffee, it’s fair to say that the World right now, seems like a very small place indeed. Fifty years ago a house full of exported goods from around the World would have seemed quite exotic - now it is just seen as rather….well, commonplace.
So why do we see growing our own business network, and developing it internationally, as such a huge challenge? Of course some of you, rightly so, will point out that a business network doesn’t necessarily need to be global; and indeed if your business / startup / venture targets only your immediate local market, then your time would be better spent checking out our thoughts on more general networking.
But those of you who are aiming to be borderless in terms of the product or service you sell, read on, and be aware, there’s nothing mind-blowing here, just 7 worldly pieces of advice that might help ‘map’ out your direction going forward ;)
Open your mindset border
A simple start to proceedings, but an important step nonetheless. The world literally is your oyster - if you want to build a valuable international business network, you must commit to your goal and resolve to seek-out and embrace the opportunities that are available to you.
Use Social Media
It really isn’t rocket science, but if you use internationally well-known social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc. and share your business / brand message via these platforms, then the odds of growing a network and developing internationally, increase substantially.
Join online global / national groups
Irrespective of the type of business that you have, if you want to develop your network internationally, there are online groups that are relevant to your business and the audience you are hoping to develop. LinkedIn for example, is not just a fantastic way to build business connections, but is also an opportunity to join industry specific groups - groups that can often reach 10’s of thousands of people from all over the globe.
Likewise, Facebook Groups can be an excellent way of connecting, learning, and potentially selling, to international clients and customers who are relevant to your business. For example the Facebook group ‘London Startups’ currently has over 18,000 members.
Make it real life
There are three main types of business network - your social network (friends and family), your business network (work, education, career etc.), and your artificial network (meetups, trade associations, online business communities). Building an artificial network of international contacts can be quite easily achieved through social media and networking groups / websites, however artificial business contacts will rarely offer you immediate business and work opportunities. It is nonetheless easy to turn an artificial contact into someone who engages more actively with your business, by interacting with them in real life.
Of course, this doesn’t mean flying to South Africa to meet with them, but perhaps just speaking to them over the phone, or on Skype / Facetime. At some point in the future (budgets permitting), you may be able to meet them in real life, but for now you should try to make your relationship as ‘real life’ as possible; you may be surprised to see what business opportunities come your way.
Remember time differences
Building an international business network can be made a little tougher when different time zones come into play - especially when your morning is their evening and so on. Therefore, if you are hoping to develop a business network outside of your own time zone, be prepared that you might have to do some out-of-hours networking, and chit-chat on Skype.
Google has made the online world into an ever shrinking place. Of course improving your placement on Google is an arduous process, and there’s no guarantee that you will ever surpass your rivals. Nevertheless there are some obvious things you can do to make sure that your business website and any content pages that you have are ‘search engine optimised’. The good thing, from our point of view, is that this relates to building an international business network; if you can be found on Google (and of course other search engines) you can potentially be found everywhere. Therefore your efforts to build that network are borderless, and the potential to use content to share that business message and brand, are huge.
Leading on from the previous point - I’ll recap a visit I took to The Business Show at London ExCeL in 2013, not long into my entrepreneurial journey. Alongside some of the promotional stands and sales pitches, a series of speakers (mostly well known) spoke on various subjects related to setting up and developing a successful business; I was most certainly not one of them. Fast-forward to 2015 and I was a key note speaker at The Business Show in May. From audience, to podium… how did that happen?
Well, back in 2013, I decided that if they (the speakers that year) could speak at the Business Show, so could I! I decided that I too would become synonymous with starting a business. Of course becoming synonymous also means that your business network, and the opportunities it creates, automatically increases. Your name / business / brand cross borders, developing your international business network in a natural and organic way.
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